Note: This is a re-run for the Light at the Edge of Darkness virtual book tour.
If you like exciting speculative fiction with a strong Christian message, pick up Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology of Christian speculative fiction edited by Cynthia MacKinnon. The 27 stories take the doctrine of Christian salvation from several different angles, yet all bear the same message: God is there for you if you seek and accept Him.
First, a word on the overall craftsmanship: Fantastic. These are well-written stories with strong plots, interesting characters, and vivid descriptions. (Some a little too vivid--don't read Weaver's stories or Fuchs' "Undeniable" before bed).
With 27 stories spanning horror, fantasy--both traditional and modern--and SF, as well as a few comedy pieces, there's something for everyone. I'm going to share a few of my favorites:
"Fumblebot's Task" by Deborah Cullins-Smith: Fumblebot, one of Satan's more ineffective minions, is given one last chance to prove himself: use Gretchen Hobson's superstitious fears to destroy her newly found faith in God. Cullins-Smith weaves a funny tale of (literally) hellish inter-office politics and miraculous near-misses as Fumblebot lives up to his name and, well, fumbles the task. The devil is in the details--or he should have been if he'd wanted it done right.
"Fair Balance" by S.M. Kirkland: Teenage rebellion becomes a fight for one sibling's soul. Kirkland drew me into the story from the beginning, but what I loved most about this story was that it did not take the easy ending.
"Allison" by Deborah Cullins-Smith: Get out the tissue for this poignant story about the fate of children lost in the womb and for the mothers who mourn them. I get teary just thinking about it, but I'm willing to bet many a mother will find comfort in her story.
"Small and Simple Things" by Alethea Knight: I loved the narrative voice in this tale as a grandmother tells her grandchild the story of their people and the amazing mutations that affected them when they colonized a new world. I would like to read more about this world where these Gifts--from sprouting wings to glowing--are first feared, then enjoyed, then depended on to survive in Panacea.
"Your Average Ordinary Alien" by Adam Graham: Another chuckler. I love the idea of a hard core SF fan being abducted by aliens and finding out they aren't so different from us after all. Kirk Skywalker (he changed his name) summed it up best: "I finally get to meet an alien and he tells me that you're just flying green WASPs."
"Soar on Wings" by Carizz Cruzem: What an imagination! Cruzem takes a look at life from the point of view of a fly--and makes it enjoyable, believable and fun! To add a Christian message attests to his genius. Write more!
"Edge of Water" by Karen McSpadden: Another writer who impressed me by not taking the "easy, ask Jesus" way out. When Clare discovers she's been slated to undergo human experimentation/torture, she decides suicide is the only way out. To prevent her from keeping her appointment at the euthanasia clinic, her husband must make an extreme sacrifice--and finds the strength to do so in the Body of Christ.
"Chairman" and "True Freedom" by Frank Creed: Biblical Cyberpunk. Not a genre you'd expect, but Creed has the skill to pull it off. In these two stories, machines find God--one in its human masters--with bizarre results--and one through the prayers of one of its human captives--with results he leaves you to guess at.
"At the Mountains of Lunacy" by Stephen L. Rice: What's a spec-fic anthology without at least one D&D parody? Rice is indeed the High Mage of the one-liners--or maybe for this anthology, he should be Paladin. I may not let my teenage son read it for fear that for months afterward, he'll start quoting lines and giggling hysterically. For those who can resist such temptation (or who revel in it), Rice's his adventure is fast-paced fun.
As a Catholic, I found several of the stories (even a few of my favs) rather "Fundamentalist" in their message, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the wonderful work and imagination put into these fantastic tales. Light at the Edge of Darkness is a good read for anyone and a must-read for those who are looking for solid Christian speculative fiction.